Wilder, Billy. “Billy Wilder on Assignment: Dispatches from Weimar Berlin and Interwar Vienna”, edited by Noah Isenberg, Princeton University Press, 2021.
Billy Wilder’s Early Writings
Before Billy Wilder became the screenwriter and director of such iconic films as “Sunset Boulevard” and “Some Like It Hot”, he was a freelance reporter, first in Vienna and then in Weimar Berlin. “Billy Wilder on Assignment” is a collection of more than fifty articles, translated into English for the first time that Wilder published in magazines and newspapers between September 1925 and November 1930. We read of Wilder’s time as a hired dancing companion in a posh Berlin hotel and his dispatches from the international film scene, to his astute profiles of writers, performers and what he had to say about political figures. Here are the fresh insights into his creative mind.
Wilder’s early writings include cultural essays, interviews, and reviews and are filled with wit and intelligence just as were his later Hollywood screenplays. At the same time, he casts light into the dark corners of Vienna and Berlin between the wars. Wilder covered everything from big-city sensations to jazz performances, film and theater openings, dance, photography, and all kinds of mass entertainment. He wrote about the most colorful figures of the day including Charlie Chaplin, Cornelius Vanderbilt, the Prince of Wales, actor Adolphe Menjou, director Erich von Stroheim, and the Tiller Girls dance troupe. With an introduction, commentary (and edited by) film historian Noah Isenberg, here is the Wilder we did not know. Shelley Frisch translated so that we can gain historical and biographical context. There are also rare photos that show capture Wilder and his circle during these formative years. Here is the early voice of the man who went on to become a great auteur and whosebackground as a journalist had a direct relationship on his later career as a director and screenwriter.